Playing with an Edge

By Sean Ostruszka

Quince Holman is getting old. Or at least he says he is.

His body aches, he’s always tired, and once he gets home from practice, a comfy chair is his best friend.

This is not the average life of a 22-year-old college student.

Holman should be in the prime of his life. He’s NIU’s starting defensive tackle who leads the team with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. He has four blocked kicks this season and routinely goes up against guys with 50 pounds on him.

Someone worrying about his age shouldn’t be able to do this.

But four years of college football will do that to a person. Every day, Holman’s body reminds him of his passion for the game – and all the punishment he has endured from it.

That’s why he may be done. After this season Holman still has an extra year of eligibility – he was granted a medical redshirt his sophomore year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the third game – but enough may be enough for the senior.

Under-sized …

Remember back in grade school: the smaller kids always took more punishment than the bigger ones. That’s what Holman has had to deal with his whole college career.

In a position where players often weigh more than 325 pounds, Holman is vastly undersized at 265. He was even lighter in years past.

It’s his lack of size that has led him taking his fair share of beatings from 300-pound offensive linemen.

“The smaller you are the more you get beat up,” Holman said. “And being smaller mean’s that every play I have to give 100 percent on every play or else I end up on my back.”

… but not under-valued

So why would any coach want to throw an undersized player into this pain-filled situation? Because he has an edge.

“Quince has natural strength and explosiveness,” NIU coach Joe Novak said. “Inside he’s quicker than most offensive lineman and he still has the strength to hold his own.”

When Holman played at Downers Grove South, Novak saw this unique combination. It’s something he’s seen in few players, so even after Holman tore his ACL his senior year, Novak wanted him to play at NIU.

Four years later, Novak isn’t sorry about his decision.

With age comes experience

A player who has always dedicated himself to NIU, Holman has been even more focused this season than the last. He’s worked harder and practiced longer. This being his final season, Novak feels Holman may have realized that he’s not going to go on for forever.

Maybe that’s why he’s more tired than in years past. Why he has to drag himself away from practice every day and sleep a little bit more.

Or maybe he really is just getting old.